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Investigation of Runaway Prius Uncovers Incident was a Hoax

Brakes on Prius not sufficiently worn, calling into question driver's story

 |  Mar 14 2010, 5:57 PM

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Last week James Sikes made headlines when his 2008 Toyota Prius raced out of control of a California highway, with speeds approaching 100 mph. Sikes claimed this was a case of unintended acceleration, with repeated attempts to stop the car not working. A believable story considering Toyota’s long list of recent recalls, it now appears to be a hoax with Runaway Prius Guy quickly becoming the next Balloon Boy.

A story that was riddled with misinformation (several outlets erroneously reporting that a California Highway Patrol officer had to use his cruiser to slow the Prius), Jalopnik uncovered that Sikes is in debt to the tune of $700,000 – motivation to fake the incident in order to get a settlement or to take Toyota to court. Sikes has repeated that he has no interest in suing Toyota, but now his story has been completely called into question.

A federal investigation of the Prius, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, has shown that the condition of the car’s brakes does not support Sikes’ story, in particular his insistence that repeated and forceful use of the brake pedal did not slow the car. According to the Journal, the investigation, “didn’t find signs the brake had been applied at full force at high speeds over a sustained period of time.”

It’s not yet clear if the damage from this story can be repaired, but Toyota is on the march to repair its name, recently debunking the ABC News story and the work of professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University.

[Source: Reuters and Jalopnik]

  • sal monella

    This is no surprise!! His story never made sense. How could you be at full throttle for 23 minutes and not hit anything????And not have the sense to move the shift lever!!!!!

  • That Guy

    why didn’t he turn off the ignition or shift into neutral?

  • DK

    I recognized this story as BS immediately. I own a 2007 Prius and the lockout speed is faster than 94 do he’d be going faster with a runaway throttle. Also, I went over 90 and applied the brakes. They were easily capable of stopping the vehicle. Hearing he is behind on the payments is no surprise. I hope Toyota sues the life out of him.

  • TC

    Yes but you could say the same thing about Toyota. They have EVERY motivation to lie about what they found. In fact you shouldn’t be taking Toyota’s word over anyone.

  • TC

    There was also a technician on ABC (or was it NBC) that PROVED there is an acceleration problem, yet Toyota still denied that. He was even able to repeat it.

  • Gerard Kneipp

    Was it a HOAX? I or you cannot say. I have the problem of SUA in a 2006 Tundra. Does it show its ugly head everyday..NO. Can I tell the next time it will happen.. NO. Does that mean that I am a liar..NO. Electrical problems are very hard to find, they leave no tracks. You have to catch them while they are doing their ugly deed. If you aren’t having problems, be happy,but don’t just assume this guy is trying to screw someone out of anything. He has enough problems..Pray for him.

  • Mark

    The ABC News technician demo has been debunked, you can do that to any car, plus ABC faked part of the footage.

    This Sikes guy is a fraud.

  • Concept

    ^ That “technician” was the professor from Southern Illinois University that speculating on his legitimacy.

  • vtec

    My 2001 Honda Civic 4 dr EX used to have the acceleration problem, the Honda dealer laughed at me about it… I have since sold the car. It used to occur as I would exit the freeway, the pedal wouldn’t move back, until I press it down again and then it would move back up, (sticky or something)..

  • Budhah

    May not all be wrong, as far back as the first Camrys came out. I was working on a house in Joliet, and the owners Camry accelerator stuck in the guys driveway, and almost hit me. His son was associated with the Toyota dealership. at the time, if I remember right. Makes one wonder…… But I have had older cars get sticky accelerators, and just needed to oil the linkage.